Kaleidoscope #3: TikTok

Like a lot of homebound students these days, I’ve been spending an embarrassing amount of time on TikTok. It’s an app that allows users to share their own short-form music videos, stories, artwork, and anything else that might garner attention. Given this freedom, the content makes for easy entertainment and a simple way to start getting creative. Therefore, I’ve decided to think more about how users choose to present various forms of art through TikTok.

The way that artists show off visual work on TikTok, for example, is an art in itself. A successful presentation requires the right song, the right length of time spent on different processes, and a quick snippet of the final result — so you’re forced to watch over and over again to get another glimpse at it. The pieces I’ve seen have ranged from paintings to cartoons to restyling vintage clothing. Although the clips are inspiring and make the work seem easy, they’re almost never constructed as tutorials. Instead, the fun of it is in the mystery of the product’s completion and the quick gratification a viewer gets from seeing it finished.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about TikTok without bringing up dance trends. TikTok dances are designed to go viral — meaning that almost anyone can do them. One dance that got a lot of press recently is the “Renegade.” Aside from successfully spreading across the Internet, a question that the “Renegade” has brought up is about ownership. If someone is promoting their drawings on the app, they can post their website in their bio and start profiting off of their work, but if someone choreographs a dance that gets famous on the app, they go unrecognized. That’s what happened to 14 year old “Renegade” creator Jalaiah Harmon. Viral dances have to be flirtatious, eye-drawing, short, and replicable all at once – which is why I think the conversation about who gets credit is rightfully going to continue. 

My favorite TikToks are story times. Similar to sharing visual art, people who share a story usually leave the punchline for the very end. Many start with the opener “Put a finger down if-” and then the narrator proceeds to share something totally insane that has probably only ever happened to them. Storytelling, like all other art forms, takes skill. TikTok storytelling specifically highlights the importance of tone, humor, details, and keeping the listeners’ attention.

TikTok thrives because it’s based on our incredibly short attention spans. One minute I’m watching an impression and the next I’m staring at an adorable puppy. There are tons of ways people get creative on the app, many outside of the three trends I discussed above. Almost anyone can get involved and a user can get “TikTok famous” with nothing but a funny idea. However, I should be clear that this post is not a TikTok endorsement. As with any social media platform, TikTok can spread mean-spirited content and, alongside various other issues, it can be extraordinarily addictive. Admittedly, I’ve decided to take a break from TikTok for the time being. 

(Image Source: Media Frenzy Global)


Junior studying Sociology and American Culture. Writes about art through a new perspective... more art! Appreciator of music, visual arts, poetry, and golden hour — often all at once.

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